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Today's date: September 15, 2014

New Book on ‘The Book of Kells’ by TCD Keeper of Manuscripts Dr Bernard Meehan Launched

News feed for Trinity College Dublin.

Nov 20, 2012

The Book of Kells is widely recognised as one of the world’s most beautiful decorated manuscripts and a masterpiece of European medieval art, with images that are staggering in their richness, intricacy and inventiveness. This handsome new volume, by Dr Bernard Meehan, Keeper of Manuscripts at Trinity College Library, brims with fresh insights and interpretations and features the extraordinary imagery on a generous scale. The publication which was introduced by Professor of History of Art,  Roger Stalley also marks the tercentenary of the foundation of the Old Library building, Trinity College Library, Dublin, one of  the great historic libraries of the world. 

The Book of Kells dates from around 800 AD and contains a Latin text of the four Gospels. There is great uncertainty about its origins. It is thought that the Book of Kells was first worked on at the monastery on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland, and was continued, after Viking raids, at the monastery of Kells in Ireland. The Book remained in Kells until the mid-1600s, and in 1661 was presented to Trinity College, Dublin, where it is on permanent display, and is regarded as a national treasure. It is seen every year by half a million visitors from all over the world. 

Julian Honer, Editorial Director at Thames & Hudson; Dr Bernard Meehan, Author and Keeper of Manuscripts; Robin Adams, College Librarian. 

This new publication, presented in a cloth-bound slipcase, features 84 full-size reproductions of complete pages of the manuscript, while enlarged details allow one to relish the intricacy of elements barely visible to the naked eye. Meehan explores the Book of Kells through its historical background; the spectacular openings of the texts that precede the Gospels; a study of earlier and comparable manuscripts; detailed examination of symbols, themes and narratives, a look at the scribes and artists who worked on the manuscript; and a consideration of technical aspects, illuminated by recent scientific research. 

This extraordinary and beautiful book will undoubtedly be a revelation even to those familiar with the celebrated Book of Kells. 

About the Author

Bernard Meehan is Head of Research Collections and Keeper of Manuscripts at Trinity College Library, Dublin. His curatorial responsibilities include the college’s distinguished corpus of medieval manuscripts (including the Book of Kells and Book of Durrow), pre-medieval manuscripts, collections of Irish historical and literary papers, and the early printed books housed in the iconic Long Room of the Old Library. 

The Book of Kells 

By Bernard Meehan 

Publication by Thames & Hudson: November 2012 

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| sharon.campbell@tcd.ie | Last updated: November 21, 2012